With its mixture of inventive tables and popular licenses, Zen Studios’ Pinball FX3 is one of the most impressive pinball video games I have played. Its latest release for the Nintendo Switch, Star Wars Pinball, collects 19 tables based on the classic sci-fi epic. The game also adds a Career Mode that gives weight to the RPG-like progression system, as well as a bevy of online features. It’s a force to be reckoned with for fans of pinball and Star Wars.
The 19 pinball tables span much of the franchise’s canon. There are tables based on the original trilogy, the first two films of the new trilogy, the Rogue One and Solo spin-offs, and even the cartoons. There’s something for every Star Wars fan, unless you’re a huge fan of the prequel trilogy, which is underrepresented here. Sorry, Jar Jar fans - this is not the game you’re looking for! Note that there aren’t any new tables in this collection, but none of them were previously available on the Switch. I may be the only one who thinks this, but it would have been nice to see more prequel representation. Otherwise, the quantity alone is more than enough to keep you busy, and the $29.99 price tag is fair for what is offered.
The tables themselves range from pretty good to excellent. As in Pinball FX3, the physics feel realistic as far as using the flippers to send your ball flying and “tilting” the table to manipulate its trajectory. What I really appreciate about Zen Studios’ style is all the unrealistic elements that take advantage of the fact that this is a video game. As you play, characters like Jabba the Hutt or Boba Fett pop out, and Tie Fighters fly over the area. Special events recreate classic moments from the franchise, like destroying the Death Star, fighting Death Vader, or recovering the secret plans. There are also minigames that completely alter the terms of the deal, asking you to wield a lightsaber, pilot an X-Wing, or roll around as the droid BB-8.
Every table is adorned with images and references from the series. Each one feels like a real living location, whether it’s Luke Skywalker’s island from The Last Jedi or the planet of Mimban. Thankfully, there are multiple camera angles to appreciate it all. I favored close-up perspectives that followed the ball, but there are also full-view angles for the bigger picture. That being said, so much is happening at once that it becomes hard to keep track of your ball and everything surrounding it, particularly in the zoomed out view. In addition, when playing the game using the Switch’s portable mode, you can flip the tablet for a vertical playstyle. I preferred the standard horizontal controls when holding the Switch, but the vertical mode can be ideal depending on your controller and stand set-up. The films’ musical score play during gameplay and in the menu, courtesy of the Cantina’s Jukebox. Voiceovers help to recreate movie scenes, but unfortunately they’re not from the series’ original actors.
Nineteen tables would have been satisfying on their own, but Star Wars Pinball also includes a Career Mode, where you play through a series of missions. It’s an effective built-in campaign that takes you through a whirlwind tour of the tables. Each mission has a different set of limitations. For instance, one might have a five-minute timer, and another may limit you to 200 flipper flips. The score requirements can be brutal for all but the best pinball players, but achieving high scores earns you special abilities known as Force Powers and Talents. The more shards you earn, the more you can upgrade your abilities. The Force Powers are optional, so purists can rest easy, but the multipliers and longer ball saves can greatly improve score or make the game easier. While I appreciate the RPG progression system, it felt a bit backwards to offer more support for the players who clearly don’t need it.
You get an overall profile level that tracks your achievements and progress. Online tournaments and leagues ramp up the gameplay for competitive players, though at bare minimum, I was satisfied with the online leaderboards and multiplayer options for each table. There’s also an ongoing challenge for all players called the Galactic Struggle, where you choose to join the light side or the dark side. As you play, you contribute points to your chosen side. Unfortunately, aside from a cute Splatoon “Splatfest”-like contest, there isn’t anything meaningful to this little extra.
Star Wars Pinball is a great collection of themed tables, and it manages to fit as many references from the series to please any Jedi or Sith Lord. Of course, if you’re not a fan of either Star Wars or pinball, I would first recommend Zen Studios’ other pinball tables or other Star Wars games. But if you adore the franchise, this is a fun and addictive way to re-experience the galactic fantasy world. The Force is strong with this one.
I am a lifelong gamer, having grown up with Nintendo since I was young. My passion for gaming led to one of the greatest moments of my life, my video game themed wedding!